Today I went out to lunch with some coworkers. I was having a frustrating morning, so I ordered my feelings: a hamburger and waffle fries. And they were delicious.
Exactly what I wanted, really.
They didn’t totally fix my frustration, but it was something. And they sure tasted good.
This is not an uncommon habit for me. When I’m frustrated or lonely or angry, my reaction is usually, “How can I eat this feeling away?” And a salad or piece of fruit is not my answer.
The thought actually occurred to me today that, oh hey, I could pray about this. So I did—a quick prayer to God that I would have a better attitude.
And I felt nothing.
No sense of calm, no quiet reassurance that it would all be okay, no instantaneous better outlook on the day.
My hamburger, however, was there for me. It had weight and substance, something tangible I could touch and smell and taste.
I think it stems from a recurring struggle I have with the intangibility of much of Christianity. As I’ve written before, “Reading some Bible chapters and saying a prayer often don’t feel tangible in the face of daily realities, with real people and real lives and real messes.”
Prayers are not food. They don’t take up space on my plate and in my stomach, like a hamburger. They don’t smell good and taste delicious as I chew them, like a brownie. They don’t tantalize my taste buds and fill my mug, like coffee.
I can’t see, touch, or taste a prayer. But I can see, touch, and taste food.
So I eat instead of pray, because I want an immediate fix for my frustration, loneliness, or anger, and food is there.
Prayer is always there too, in that it’s always an option, but it doesn’t feel like an option I want to take when God seemingly ignores my little, easy prayers for “quick fixes” like a better attitude. In the grand scheme of things, couldn’t that only result in good? So why not answer it?
There’s the possibility that I wasn’t really looking for the answer–I’ll fully admit that.
Or, perhaps, it’s not so much a matter of a singular prayer that will fix my frustration, but a lifestyle of continual prayer. God is relational, and he wants a relationship with me–so if that’s really my aim, one-off prayers for attitude readjustments are not really the point.
Relationship is the point.
Hamburgers and chocolate and coffee are not all bad, but they are a bad substitute for God.
Til next time…
p.s. Do you ever eat instead of pray?